How to do business in the new economy

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Illustration of road sign leading to new economy

We talk to the founders of three software companies.

Over the last few months, the lines between our working and private lives have become more than a bit blurry. Many people lucky enough to still be able to work from home have found themselves between a mental rock and a hard place: grateful for the job they have, but all too aware of the work-life balance they haven’t had for most of their working lives.

As part of our new economy blog series, we talk to three of our fellow software companies about what gives their work purpose and keeps their teams happy.

Paul Reid, CEO at Trickle, an employee engagement and wellbeing platform

Paul Reid, CEO at Trickle
Paul Reid, CEO at Trickle

“I believe that work should be a place where everyone’s voice is heard, your wellbeing is supported, and you feel happy to be, that is why we created Trickle. We want to see organisations break down barriers to interaction, reduce inequality, remove bias and put people back at the heart of the operation — quite simply, we want to help organisations be more human.

“The Covid 19 pandemic has been massively disruptive, but it has also created opportunities for reflection and reinvention. Organisations have been prompted by forced changes to rethink how they interact with and support their people, and what type of relationship they want to have with them moving forward.

“It would be fantastic to see companies take this opportunity using a platform like Trickle to make simple changes now that make their workplaces better places to be and will have wide-reaching and long-term positive impact on the future world of work. Our platform gives your people a voice within the organisation that is not only heard but also acted upon. It empowers everyone at all levels across the organisation to contribute to and impact their company culture.

“At Trickle we are proactively nurturing a psychologically safe environment, where everyone feels included and able to freely express themselves. We like our people to feel really comfortable having what some might class as difficult conversations.

“Unsurprisingly we apply the principles behind our app. We do this by having open dialogue on a regular basis on a level playing field so that everyone can contribute, ask questions, raise issues and make suggestions.

“The dynamic nature of Trickle means that employees can reach out for support, raise concerns, offer feedback and make suggestions. Because Trickle operates in real-time it allows leadership to have a “finger on the pulse” across the organisation — giving them early warning of emerging issues, and enabling them to have a more proactive approach to their wellbeing and employee engagement strategy.

“It is important that we all regularly touch base as a team to keep everyone engaged and informed about what is happening within the company and how we are doing. It also helps us build stronger relationships with each other.

“I guess a lot of it is actually about treating people how you want to be treated yourself — our people really believe in the purpose of Trickle, and we trust them to use their expertise and passion to do the right things in meeting our goals.”

Sorcha Lorimer, Founder at Trace, a data audit and compliance platform

Sorcha Lorimer, Founder at Trace
Sorcha Lorimer, Founder at Trace

“Humanity is up against some seismic existential crises of public health, climate change and inequality. Our biggest challenges are global, which goes for the digital economy too: the internet is broken and I want Trace to play our part to help make the web a fairer, and more protective space. The tech utopian vision of the web as an ungoverned level playing field may have been an honorable one at the outset — but when we look at the internet of today we can see that was naive.

“We have an online space where power is distorted, platforms are weaponised, data is stolen and mass surveillance the norm . The role that I want Trace to play is to help tackle that inequity and put the ownership of people’s data back in their own hands. The user should be at the centre of the tech story and companies need to do a much better job of looking after private data and choosing trusted processors.

“Trace software and online learning were born out of delivering services for clients in the real world where the compliance pain points and inefficiencies were witnessed first hand. That domain knowledge, real world application, combined with experience in design, usability and product creation was the genesis for Trace.

“We’re not the only software to have been conceived this way but it does mean that we get great feedback on the ease and usability of the platform and on our content and understanding of regulations like the GDPR. Having the user at the centre of the story and approaching a potentially dry subject with creativity to deliver an intuitive experience is our difference. We constantly strive to hide the complexity from users, so it’s a mantra of simple solutions to a very nuanced area of Data Protection.

“Like many young companies Trace, who were already working digital first, shifted to remote-first with brilliant tools that support distributed teamwork during lockdown. Working in this way is efficient, environmentally friendly and it can be brilliant for work-life balance — supporting different work patterns much more flexibly and allowing for greater diversity. Now you can work with people who are the best at what they do and the best fit, wherever they are in the world and companies can flex to asynchronous working patterns and communications. At Trace the ethos is one of trust — it is output focused delivery rather than the traditional nine-to-five in an office.

“However, working from home, which we have all been doing through this pandemic has a downside — people can feel isolated and it’s hard to pick up on the nuance of communication and signals on how people really feel, so I always make time for one-to-one communication with everyone I work with and check in outside of group meetings. Covid 19 has led to many feeling disconnected from real contact, and the way through that is by fostering trusted relationships and helping people feel part of a bigger mission and team.”

Colin Hewitt, CEO at Float, a cashflow forecasting platform

Colin Hewitt, CEO at Float
Colin Hewitt, CEO at Float

“We’re learning a huge amount about the unrecognised biases we hold, and inequalities that exist in the system that we’re part of. I’m hopeful that in the future we will have found a way to level the playing field for people of all backgrounds entering both higher education and the workforce.

“In the next five years I’d like to see Float investing in training and development of our staff and beyond that to other businesses we work with, as we share what we’ve learned. Now that we’re over the survival startup hump, we are investing more in our people and the planet. That starts by creating a culture where those things are valued before profits.

“At Float we’re solving a large complex problem for businesses, so we’re committed to building a world-class product development process. We work with cross-functional teams of product managers, data scientists, designers, engineers and copywriters, being led by customer feedback and the behavioural data that validates it. We want to constantly improve how we build, review and release our product, so we continue to invest in improving our understanding and experience of this.

“When we look at other software companies in our space, many are either going too slowly to really innovate, or they are trying to go too fast, releasing features that customers don’t want or can’t use. The process is subtle so it takes a really great team to know how to be honest, conflict well, and do the right thing for our customers, while at the same time looking to the future.

“Hiring a COO who values people highly has made a big impact. Taking an approach that puts people at the centre of Float brings me a huge amount of confidence that we are building a very compassionate company.

“I’ve learned that clarity and alignment are critical for people to feel like they can succeed. Clarity and humility are two of the central values that Float have landed on. Knowing those helps us to hire people that fit with what we’re trying to become. Keeping those values at the forefront when hiring has helped us to build a strong team and we’ve learned that we can’t take shortcuts in this area.

“We’ve recognised that we have to model our culture in our senior leadership team. We’ve worked with facilitators to have difficult conversations that foster trust and openness and have seen that then trickle down into the teams people lead.”